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by Auralee Wallace
St. Martin's Paperbacks, May 2018
336 pages
ISBN: 1250151473

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is not your run-of-the-mill cosy, not by a long shot. Oh, yes, there are quirky characters and a quirky plot plunked in a quirky setting. And the lead character, Otter Lake NH private security investigator Erica Bloom, has a mother who never outgrew hippiedom and runs a local "retreat," one featuring this time a handsome guru and a ton of paying female guests. So it's definitely a cosy. But there is a streak of something like a cross between the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges and the comic pace author Auralee Wallace manages is tribute to both of these long ago teams.

The opening situation is that a perfectly lovely young woman named Candace is soon to be married to a man named Joey (whose general background seems to be a federal penitentiary) with whom she has fallen happily and hopelessly in love. Candace's family is horrified and vocal, the volume escalating when they get a look at this Joey he is both hulking and thug-like. Joey's family is just as adamant that the wedding not go forward: Candace is way too needy and it is way too soon in the relationship to make it permanent. Candace and Joey want to hurry the wedding because his "Nonna" is very old and has creeping dementia and she is very special to Joey.

Erica and her partner in the security firm, Freddie Ng, are both attending the bachelorette party which is appropriately tasteless. The maid of honor, Lyssa, bellows joyfully as she rides the mechanical bull in the center of the room. Candace and Joey's families mostly want to kill each other and Nonna has become trapped again among some chairs shoved off to the side and needs rescuing. The party never gets through the catered dinner. Both families stomp out of the building angrily which is rather odd because they have to stomp together down the path to the edge of the lake to get back into the boats they rode in on.

Not an auspicious start for marital bliss but a nice setting of the tone of the whole book.

By the next morning, Lyssa has been found in the lake, very dead and very murdered, both families are relieved that now the wedding can't happen, and Erica and Freddie are on the case and somehow have managed to promise Candace that they will solve the murder and get the wedding pulled off in the next two weeks.

Enough said about the mystery. It's nuts from beginning to end, but in the grand tradition of those Marx Brothers and those Three Stooges more is always more. It's the everything but the kitchen sink brand of comedy and the fact that some of it doesn't work doesn't matter. It's yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck from end to end and enough works just fine to make this...hmm....not everyone's cuppa for sure but loads of fun anyway.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, April 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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